As the date approached this year, very few Americans were unaware of the significance of Wednesday, September 11th. Some were also mindful that the anniversary date was followed two days later by a Friday the 13th. Such was the impact of the horrendous events a year ago that the latter fact seemed inconsequential, even to the superstitious among us, athough it did add a mite more menace to a week already dominated by the shadow of fate.
It was not just that we had turned a formal 365-day cycle. The recognition was keen that if things could turn as awful as suddenly as they had a year go, on what had started out to be an unusually pleasant late-summer day, no day could be regarded as safe. Any day, no matter how promising, could turn catastrophic in ... a New York minute.
September 11, 2001, was the day that the Big Apple, through its terror and its suffering and its all-too-human anguish, lost all of its big-city remoteness and became the ultimate American neighborhood. It was the day that Americans came closer to a sense of national unity than they had had at any point since December 7, 1941, when events occurred that propelled us into World War II.
That earlier day of infamy should remind us, of course, that there may be further momentous dates in the course of our current, somewhat amorphous conflict. We have to remember that though September 11, 2001, saw a greater incidence of American civilian casualties than any prior hostile attack, it may be outdone in that regard by subsequent circumstances.
But September 11th is the date that will forever strike a chord in the American soul, that will cause us to remember not only its frightful lessons about destiny and impermanence but also the perhaps fleeting sense of national community that many found themselves experiencing for the first time.
The first reaction of many of those directly involved in last year's tragedy, like then-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, was to try to restore the lost monuments of the twin towers as soon as possible.
In a year's time, that resolve, in the case of the mayor and many others, had evolved into a sense that enshrining the 16-acre site of Ground Zero through some appropriately majestic and as yet unimagined memorial might be more appropriate.
In the same way, a date that almost instantly declared itself as special and, at first, stood for horrific and unexpected terror may evolve into an annual memorial in the national calendar -- one officially recognized as a day that binds us each to each and offers, instead of heartbreak, hope; instead of rue, resolve; instead of remorse, repose; instead of horror, holiday.
And we, like the New Yorkers and others whose fate we experienced vicariously a year ago, would thereby find the occasion, on a date certain each year, to lose, and by losing, to regain our innocence.